Thursday, March 28, 2013

Ten Years

Ten years ago tonight was my first date with my (now) wife.

Although it would be presumptuous to say we knew right away it would be the last first date either of us would have, I certainly can say (for myself) that if I didn't think there was a pretty reasonable chance things would work out thusly the date may not have happened at all. Given that not only did we work together at the time (that was how we met and got to know each other—somewhat taboo but not uncommon) but also at the time her older sister was my immediate supervisor. So if things didn't work out, not only could the situation be uncomfortable with a co-worker but my boss could have rained hell down on me.

I'm not much of a risk-taker, but I could tell from what I was feeling that asking her out was worth it; something told me I'd regret it if I didn't.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Return of the Squirrel

Recently my wife and I were in her car, sitting at a red light. From the passenger seat I glanced over and noticed a squirrel start to scamper up on a tree in the yard of the house on the corner. I remarked aloud to her, in an imitation of Dug the dog from Up, saying in that voice "Squirrel!" The windows in the car were rolled up, and the tree was probably around 20 feet away so I couldn't imagine the creature heard me, but almost on cue the squirrel froze, only a couple feet up the trunk, grasping the bark and defying gravity. Although its body was vertical, its head turned and looked straight at us. It stayed there, motionless, not breaking its gaze upon us. However, I doubted we were the actual focus of its attention and there must be something else behind us that was holding its interest.

After several seconds of this ostensible eye-contact I raised my hand and waved at it jokingly, saying in a low voice "Hi squirrel," figuring this would be ignored and dispel the notion it was, in fact, looking at us. My wife admonished me immediately not to taunt the animal, but I didn't think my action was threatening even if it did see gesture.

The squirrel broke its pose and ran down the tree and into the street at the car, stopping about six feet away.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Get the Kinks out: Where all the good times went

The other day in the break room at the office I quoted "Where Have All the Good Times Gone?" and one of the other people in the room (11 years my junior) had not heard of the Kinks. It's not that she merely hadn't heard that song of theirs; she drew a blank at the mention of the band altogether.

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Rhett Miller at Largo: Not like the old days

Having seen Rhett Miller many times at the old Largo club (on Fairfax) last decade, seeing him perform at the new Largo (at the Clarinet Theater on La Cienega) for the first time last Wednesday came with a set of associations.

The old venue was a small club with tables where one was obligated to buy dinner (typically pasta); the new venue is a few-hundred seat theater with rigid seats facing an elevated stage. As such, rather than being a standing-room-only event it appeared about a half-full show; not only did it lack the intimacy but it also seemed like less of a big deal, even though a decade ago his shows happened monthly (because he lived locally) and now happens only on rare occasions when he's in town (now that he lives in upstate New York). We didn't have to watch for the announcement of the show on the venue's website and get on the list quickly before it filled; we literally could have walked up two minutes before show time and only ended up maybe seven rows farther back than we did (which still would have provided a fine view of the stage).

I know how that seems like an improvement, but... well... that's not how a Rhett show should be.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Solving the problem of cars: drivers

On a Freakonomics episode from last month they answered listener questions and one asked about driving "like an economist" and cited the difficulty of driving to affect others so they drive better. The questioner mentioned being in a traffic jam and trying to do his part by leaving space between his car and the one in front (to allow for easier merging) but all it resulted in was other drivers cutting in front while others tailgated him. No other motorists were interested in contributing to alleviating their mutual plight.

The answer was that, yes, the inconsiderate or thoughtless drivers made it so there was little an individual could do to influence the situation, as it merely resulted in those others taking advantage. Ultimately the solution would be driverless cars, taking the human ego out of the equation. Would people be willing to give up driving to be able to do other things with that time? They thought people would, but those automated vehicles would need to be dramatically safer in order to capture public approval. Levitt speculated that even if the fatalities from accidents with the driverless cars was a fraction of auto fatalities we have with humans driving that still would be too much. Only if these cars were essentially perfectly safe would people consider them to be worth giving up control.

Friday, March 01, 2013

Some thoughts about the future of TV based on this whole Netflix "House of Cards" model

(Yeah, this really would have been better had I gotten to it a month ago. I know.)
Does the Netflix model of distribution exemplified by how they released all episodes of the first season of House of Cards on the same day subvert the weekly paradigm that television has had since its inception (and radio and other media before that)? Absolutely. Is that intentional? One must presume so. But is that necessarily bad?

Well, it's conceivably bad for networks who have a 24-hour schedule to fill and primetime hours that get quasi-monitored by Nielsen and advertisers to convince to spend large sums of money in order to bankroll the whole venture, but one assumes that if the future of distribution and delivery ends up in a complete on-demand world that those networks will adapt appropriately.

Let's focus on the viewer side.